After more than 40 years in the legal trenches, San Francisco-based trial attorney Michael A. Kelly is leading the charge against corporate misconduct to make the world safer, one case at a time.
Kelly, a shareholder at Walkup, Melodia, Kelly & Schoenberger, has been at the forefront of the fight to hold private and public entities accountable for deadly medical mistakes, dangerous household products, unsafe medical devices, and accidents on our roadways. His track record includes trying, arbitrating, or settling over 200 cases where his clients recovered more than $1 million. As a result of his work, Kelly was invited to membership in the Inner Circle of Advocates, an association of the top 100 personal injury trial lawyers in the United States.
Kelly is a nationally respected advocate in the legal world, with a long list of awards and accolades. He has been selected to the National Trial Lawyers and LawDragon Hall of Fame. Over the last 20 years, he has consistently appeared on the “Top 10” and “Top 100” lists compiled by Northern California Super Lawyers. For 2023 he has been named Super Lawyers’ No. 1 vote-getter for the fourth consecutive year, a testament to his exceptional legal skills and reputation among his peers.
“It is fulfilling to see our work’s positive impact on the lives of our clients, who must face major challenges every day. I am regularly reminded of the power of the law to make a difference, so I am proud to be a part of that process,” Kelly says.
Kelly was inspired to pursue a career in law by the civil rights movement in the 1960s and the lawyers of that era who stood as models of the profession in bringing about social change. Growing up in San Francisco, he has always believed that each of us has a responsibility to leave our community, and the world, a better place than we found it.
He began his career at the San Francisco firm Sutton, Needham & Hull, where he gained experience in criminal defense. He then moved to the plaintiff’s firm Walkup, Downing & Sterns, where he worked with accomplished lawyers who taught him about trial strategy, tactics, and the importance of making justice one case at a time in front of juries. He is well-known for securing significant seven and eight-figure verdicts in personal injury and wrongful death cases, including a $23 million judgment in a birth injury case and a $17 million verdict in a product liability case against bicycle equipment maker Bell Helmets.
Despite his long list of accomplishments, Kelly is not slowing down. He splits his time between teaching trial advocacy and trial practice with an active caseload. His teaching has most recently been focused on the efforts of Trial School, a national, free litigation advocacy school devoted to teaching effective and ethical approaches to courtroom advocacy for both new and experienced lawyers.
In court, Kelly is prosecuting cases on behalf of herbicide exposure victims who allege that Paraquat triggers Parkinson’s disease in older Americans. He was at the forefront of the litigation against PG&E arising from the Wine Country and Camp wildfire cases. His efforts were instrumental in helping achieve a $13.5 billion bankruptcy resolution against the utility giant, which at the time was the largest Tort Bankruptcy in U.S. history.
In 2017, he was named the Lawyer of the Year in mass torts by Best Lawyers, and in 2023 as Lawyer of the Year in personal injury. His unwavering commitment to justice and his clients’ well-being has earned him a reputation as a champion for those in need. Kelly is also a dedicated pro bono attorney, most recently collaborating with other UC Law SF alumni representing residents and businesses in San Francisco’s Tenderloin district in a lawsuit against the city to make the neighborhood safer for all by providing safe sleeping sites for unhoused residents.